When I was a little girl, I decided that I was going to Spain. I probably spun a globe around and pointed my finger at a random country, but it doesn’t really matter. Here I am, fifteen years later, getting ready to hop the pond.
There’s a lot of planning that goes into this and, since I’ve already done a lot of the heavy lifting, I thought I’d compile some information to make your process go as smoothly as possible.
The average cost of a semester abroad is somewhere around $18,500. This figure includes everything. Cotton swabs to program fees. But that’s still a huge number. In fact, it’s a lot more than what most students pay for a semester at their regular US institution.
With a figure like $18,500, the financial feasibility of a semester abroad goes WAY down wicked fast. Which is obviously why you’re here. I don’t need to harp on the benefits of studying abroad—you know those already. But what you might not know is that studying abroad doesn’t have to break your bank (or your parents’).
Here are 9 ways you can find funding for your undergrad (maybe even graduate) semester/year of a lifetime…
1) High School Guidance Counselor
Wut? I’m serious! What an untapped resource. High school guidance counselors might know about some scholarships that you can’t find. Local businesses and organizations might have funding opportunities to send “one of their own” abroad. There might also be state-specific opportunities that you just haven’t heard about. Scour through your old email and uncover their contact info. Don’t be too intimidated to reach out!
2) Financial Aid Advisor
Make sure you talk to a financial aid advisor. Financial aid can often go toward the cost of a study abroad program. A financial aid advisor in your university’s student services center or financial aid office can help direct you. If you have any current scholarships that apply to a semester at your school, ask if those transfer as well. Be specific; you don’t want to get surprised and have a scholarship suddenly missing from the totals you were expecting.
3) Study Abroad Office
Obviously, I know. Make an appointment with a study abroad advisor. They will have a list of general scholarships you can apply for that are specifically for students studying abroad. This increases your chances of getting a scholarship by quite a bit. Once you’ve chosen a program or country of study, they can direct you to specific scholarships that you may be eligible for. If you’re still concerned about your finances, implore them for more options and express your concern. These people typically want to help students. Like a lot. So they’ll do whatever they can.
4) Financial Aid Office
Inquire with your financial aid office as to whether or not your school has any special scholarships or scholarships from outside donors that you might be eligible for. Sometimes, links to these can be found tucked away online. I’ve received $8,000 in these types of scholarships, so don’t let them pass you by. Heads up, they do tend to favor students more advanced in their studies (ie. juniors and seniors).
5) Specific University Department/College
I am an English major, which means, for my school specifically, that Arts & Sciences is my home base. Sometimes your specific college has scholarships only for those admitted. So for me, engineering students couldn’t apply. Again, a smaller pool increases your chances. Don’t be afraid to get super specific, either. Some departments (for me, it would be the Department of English) have scholarships as well. These are usually listed online, but being proactive and emailing your academic advisor might uncover some more options for you.
Again, obvi, I know. But friends (and acquaintances) are a huge resource. I found out about the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship after talking to a friend who studied abroad. Post a Facebook status asking for advice. Shoot a text to your adventurer friends. You might regret not doing so.
7) Clubs and Honor Societies
Ever been in the Eagle Scouts or Girl Scouts? Heard of Phi Kappa Phi? Rotary? If you were ever in a club (especially if you held a leadership role), reach out to that organization and see what kind of funding opportunities might be available. It might be a fellowship, or they might just give you money. Some have specific scholarships for students looking to study abroad. Even if you weren’t in a club or honor society, some still offer you opportunities to apply for scholarships. Don’t let something pass because it doesn’t sound likely. You honestly never know and you might find gold in a coal mine.
8) Specific Program Enrollment
Haven’t committed to a specific study abroad program yet? You can always peruse the possibilities and see what scholarships they might offer, like Go Overseas $15000 scholarship for study in Ireland. There are a lot of great, reputable study abroad programs. ISA, AIFS, CIEE, CEA, etc. etc. I am travelling through my college in connection with ISA, which ends up saving me major bucks. You can also cut the middle man and go straight to a University in a country of your choice. Many universities have scholarships for U.S. and other foreign students. I’d be very careful about going this route, however, because almost all of the planning is fully on your shoulders. Using a study abroad program is a good way to let someone else deal with the nitty gritty details while also offering you a good amount of security.
9) Scholarship Databases
Who are you? Do you have any religious or ethnic ties? Use these to help you search. Scholarship databases like Black Excel offer students ways to search for scholarships that are specifically targeted toward them. You can apply for regular academic scholarships even if you’re studying abroad. Don’t limit yourself to only those for travelling students. Use the databases to filter results specific to you. An hour on an essay is a small amount of time to put in for $250. Check out general databases too. You can find like a zillion of them through Google.
There you have it!
Watch out for deadlines. Several scholarships that I applied for had deadlines earlier than the deadlines of my study abroad program applications. Don’t let that catch you, or you’ll be missing out on some seriously awesome opportunities. My suggestion (if you’re studying abroad in a fall/summer semester) is to start looking for scholarships in late November and start applying as soon as applications become available. If you’re looking for an easy list, you can check out the one I’ve compiled here.
Lastly, plan for the best, but also plan for the worst. I recently found out that a $6,000 scholarship was revoked for my study abroad semester. That obviously puts a serious dent in my plans because it was half of my program fee that is no longer covered. So don’t just apply for the scholarships you think you’ll need; apply for as many as you can. You can always politely and humbly decline them once you have enough to cover your trip. So apply, apply, apply! Go see the world. You got this.
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